In most of the exhibitions that have followed one another in recent years, it has been customary to build, alongside the halls housing the latest discoveries in the general field of science and art, a few reconstructions of the city itself, where the great world fair was held, at a certain period of its history, or even at different key periods of it.
The Antwerp Exhibition of 1894 saw the creation of the magnificent and tasty Old Antwerp; Amsterdam, the following year, evoked the dark, black, commercial Amsterdam seen by Rembrandt and the picturesque Amsterdam, with its long canal streets ending in some flapping windmill wing; Brussels-Kermesse, in 1897, was a pure and crazy festival and Old Paris, at the 1900 Paris Exhibition, evoked the sumptuous, the gleaming, the pretty century of Louis XIV.
Faced with such precedents, Liège could not remain insensitive; it was a Société Anonyme that conceived the project of an ancient reconstruction and took charge of bringing it to a successful conclusion. Because of its importance, its beauty and its strictly historical documentary value, Old Liege was certainly more than an attraction.
We will talk about it mainly from an archaeological and artistic point of view.
The Quartier du Vieux-Liège was built between the Meuse and the Ourthe diversion.
From afar, nothing was more pleasing than to see these acute or bulbous towers, these sloping roofs. This district, together with the green tip of the Boverie peninsula, formed a cheerful frame for the white and cheerful vision of the main facade of the halls and the Palais des Fêtes.
The Quarter occupied an area of nearly four hectares and was made up of more than a hundred houses, monuments and shops; their reconstruction was very difficult.
Old houses with a typical character are rare and scattered or denatured. It was necessary to travel through the old country of Liege and to find the most interesting elements of old Walloon architecture in the towns, villages and remote hamlets and, using these, to build and reconstruct buildings in accordance with the ideas of their authors.
As an evocation of the old city, Old Liege was still a synthesis of Walloon architecture.
In the archaic setting of Old Liege, the bourgeoisie, craftsmen and men-at-arms, coal miners and women with their picturesque, brightly coloured
colourful costumes. There was a revival of the customs of yesteryear, of the joyous festivals of yesteryear in the Quarter.
Of these parties, some were permanent, others were occasional; every evening, cramignons strolled merrily through the streets marking,
with a last song and a final burst of laughter, the retreat and the curfew.
Among the parties that were organised, a few introduced our forefathers to the life of pleasure; most of them still exist. These were the neighbourhood festivals with their traditional festivities, trade festivals, singing and shooting competitions, bowling, finches and rooster crowing. Other festivals, the historical processions, a Joyeuse Entrée, the May festival, the harvest festival, showed us beautiful Walloon girls, pretty costumes, and let us hear the most cheerful and lively songs that the cheerful and frenzied gesture of a cramignon can give rhythm to.
This was Old Liege at the Exhibition. Its main and lasting merit was above all to bring together a set of serious and complete documents relating to the architecture of the Mosans in the past.
We would also like to mention here that the Société anonyme du Vieux-Liège organised a poster competition in which many artists took part.
Two of the projects executed were those of Mr. Jean Ubaghs and Mr. Georges Koister, who won the first and second prizes respectively.
©Livre d'Or de l'Exposition Universelle de Liège 1905